Onion (Allium cepa)

Main Facts about Onion

Onion (Allium cepa)
It is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium, which includes other important species such as garlic and leeks. It is native to Eurasia but now grows all over the world, due mostly to people bringing it with them as a staple food wherever they migrated. The French explorer Pere Marquette was saved from starvation in 1624 by eating wild onions near the present site of Chicago—the name of the city is derived from a Native American word for the odor of onions. The onion plant has a fan of hollow, bluish-green leaves and the bulb at the base of the plant begins to swell when a certain day-length is reached. In the autumn the foliage dies down and the outer layers of the bulb become dry and brittle. The crop is harvested and dried and the onions are ready for use or storage.

Using Onion

Although rarely used specifically as a medicinal herb, the onion, like garlic, has a wide range of beneficial actions on the body and when eaten (especially raw) on a regular basis will promote the general health of the body. For medicinal purposes, onions may be used both internally and externally. Internal use of onion increases circulation and stimulates and warms the body. Onion is effective against many bacteria. Onion has a long history of use for relieving coughs. Externally, onion is used in the form of poultices for tumors and earaches. The tear-evoking lachrymatory chemical released when onion is crushed or cut has resulted in onion being selected for use as a treatment for respiratory problems. The regular consumption of raw onions has, like garlic, been shown to lower high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, both of which help prevent atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Onions contain a number of sulfides similar to those found in garlic which may lower blood lipids and blood pressure. Onions are a rich source of flavonoids, substances known to provide protection against cardiovascular disease. The paste of the unripe onion is a very good disinfectant. The paste is effective for insect bites and skin related problems. The pungent juice of onions has been used as a moth repellent . It is also useful in preventing oral infection and tooth decay. When warmed the juice can be dropped into the ear to treat earache. It also aids the formation of scar tissue on wounds, thus speeding up the healing process, and has been used as a cosmetic to remove freckles.

Onion is a remedy for: Cold and flu


Most people can eat onion in food without any difficulties. Higher intakes of onion may worsen existing heartburn, though it does not seem to cause heartburn in people who do not already have it. There are also isolated reports of allergy to onion, including among people with asthma, manifesting as skin rash and red, itchy eyes. Onion is safe for use in children and, in small amounts in food, during pregnancy (though some pregnant women may have heartburn that onions could exacerbate) and nursing.

Cooking with Onion

Onions are widely used on cooking in nearly all regions of the world. Onions are commonly chopped and used as an ingredient in various hearty warm dishes, and may also be used as a main ingredient in their own right, for example in French onion soup or onion chutney. They are very versatile and can be baked, boiled, braised, grilled, fried, roasted, sautéed or eaten raw in salads. Eye irritation can be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water. Refrigerating the onions before use reduces the enzyme reaction rate and using a fan can blow the gas away from the eyes.

How to grow Onion

Onions prefer a sunny sheltered position in a rich light well-drained soil. Sandy loams are good as they are low in sulphur, while clayey soils usually have a high sulphur content and produce pungent bulbs. Onions require a high level of nutrients in the soil.Onions roots are shallow and not very efficient at taking up moisture, so they need a steady supply of water to grow without interruption. Although they actually recover well from drought and start growing again when watered, it is best to keep the soil consistently moist until the bulbs enlarge. Onions may be grown from seed or from sets. The plants are shallow-rooted and do not need a great deal of water when established. Bulbing usually takes place after twelve to eighteen weeks. The bulbs can be gathered when needed to eat fresh, but if they will be kept in storage, they should be harvested after the leaves have died back naturally.

Onion Toxic Look-alikes

Make sure onion-like plants have onion smell. If you do not smell an onion odor but you have the right look beware you might have a similar-looking toxic plant.